If you don’t read Bruce Schneier’s thoughts on security, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. There’s few people who so clearly understand that risk can never be fully eliminated and that there is always a tradeoff involved when you attempt to improve security. His latest article on policy in the wake of the Paris attacks is another good read, but this excerpt raises a very troubling possibility:
…the officials of that security state have bet the farm on the preeminence of the terrorist ‘threat,’ which has, not so surprisingly, left them eerily reliant on the Islamic State and other such organizations for the perpetuation of their way of life, their career opportunities, their growing powers, and their relative freedom to infringe on basic rights, as well as for that comfortably all-embracing blanket of secrecy that envelops their activities.
In short, the absence of terrorism threatens the existence of the security apparatus charged with fighting it. This places those bureaucracies in a position where they need just enough terrorism to justify themselves without having so much that their efficacy is questioned. As much as we would hope for the romantic ideal of selfless public service, history is that most people and organizations will act in their own self-interest.
Whenever someone proposes expansion of surveillance powers, don’t kid yourself into thinking that it will be anything but a permanent change, one with arguably questionable effects.